Find all of our Election 2020 coverage and other candidate interviews here. More interviews will be added as the election draws closer.
Pulver discusses her top three priorities if elected and her healthcare focused campaign.
Julia Pulver, who has worked in numerous healthcare roles, is a Democrat running for the Michigan House of Representatives 39th District, which includes Commerce Township, parts of West Bloomfield Township and Wixom. Pulver is running against Republican incumbent Ryan Berman, who is Jewish. Rep. Berman has not responded to election interview requests from the JN.
Here is Pulver’s interview with the JN, edited for length and clarity.
What compelled you to run for office and if elected, what would be your top three priorities?
As a registered nurse, I never envisioned myself in politics. But, five years ago, after working at the bedside, and in hospital administration, I took a role in the community as a case manager. I began to really see the disparity between the Haves and the Have Nots in terms of healthcare access. It also angered me that decisions were made in Lansing by people who’d never cared for patients or worked with their families on healthcare options. I realized the need to have more patient advocates, which is what nurses are first and foremost.
My initial priority would be to increase testing so we can trace and isolate outbreaks. If you can’t test for it, you can’t trace it. We absolutely need a national strategy and a federal system willing and capable to help with this. I want to get to where teachers, students, parents, employers and their employees can test every week. I’d love to see a home test.
Tracing is next. We have to build up—and our governor is starting to do this—our public health infrastructure, which includes people to contract trace and educate the community. We need to plan how we’re going to distribute an available vaccine to make sure everyone gets it. Things like that don’t just happen.
The long-term goal is to establish herd immunity without millions of people needlessly dying. It’s to have a vaccine that’s affordable and readily available. We also need overall healthcare for everyone regardless of income and employment status.
Your district has a high Jewish population. Can you talk about relationships you’ve forged with this community?
I’m very honored to have the endorsement of the Jewish Democratic Caucus, with Noah Arbit as leader. I’m not of the Jewish community, but I’m a fierce ally. I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist, where we believe in the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Through this, I’ve built many interfaith relationships and coalitions.
I’m familiar and comfortable with many people in the Jewish community in West Bloomfield and the greater area. I’ve participated in events like Walk4Friendship and the Walk for Israel and have been happily invited to many Seders and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I’m running against a Jewish opponent, and I understand and believe representation is important. In this case, however, I believe that shared values may be more important. I’ve demonstrated a history of values that align with many Jewish voters in this district, particularly concerning public health and education, perhaps more so than our current representative.
As a RN, what are your thoughts on our current mental health crisis and what would be a path to create true mental health solutions?
This has been one of the worst times in recent history for anyone dealing with a mental health issue, especially undiagnosed. Thankfully, mental health has been able to adapt rather quickly to a virtual environment, compared to other providers. But what’s allowed under this public health emergency may not be permanent. We’ve seen how telehealth opens up access to care. Mental health providers and services need to continue to be reimbursed through telehealth.
We also owe the people in our state a healthcare option outside of Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance. We’ve recently seen how quickly employer-based healthcare can disappear. I would champion and spearhead efforts to have a state-based healthcare plan that doesn’t leave people out. Helping people be healthier also makes fiscal sense.
In regard to stigma, we need more people willing to share about their battles with mental health. I’m pretty open about the anxiety I struggle with from being sexually assaulted in high school. It was very traumatic. I got the care I needed, but I’m going to be dealing with anxiety the rest of my life. So I think we need more people normalizing mental health challenges. Addiction is another major issue. We need to address why people have addictions, which are often from self-medicating undiagnosed anxiety, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, and desperation.
Obviously, you’re running a very healthcare focused campaign. What are other principles you’re factoring into your run for the Michigan House?
As a mom of four kids, I want to come back to the idea that our teachers are one of our greatest assets. What’s been going on during the pandemic should give people an eye-opening appreciation for everything teachers do. As a parent, I’m struggling to keep my kids on track, and would give just about anything to let the professionals handle it, because I’m definitely not a teacher.
So, I want teachers to be treated as professionals. In West Bloomfield, a district of pretty well-resourced schools, we still have trouble filling our teaching roles each year. And now we’re asking some teachers to risk their lives by going back to teach our kids.
We have a chance to reset on many things following the recovery from this crisis. I really hope a refocus and a rededication to the promises of quality public education will be something that comes out of this.